Despair Speaking's Reviews > The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
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Sep 28, 2012

it was ok
Read in September, 2012

If you're a kid and you're hoping for a book that may not resemble Harry Potter but have some sort of adventure/mystery inside, forget it, this book is not for you! It's for MATURE READERS only!!!

I don't know what to say.

I honestly don't know what to say.

I had received this book hours before. I had been so giddy and excited that, at the very moment I reached home, I immediately opened the book and proceeded reading.

I have just finished it.

To put it plainly, I was disappointed. Beyond disappointed. I felt like the ground beneath me had just fallen apart.

Now, first of all, before you start saying anything, I had prepared my mind and heart that this book would be different from the Harry Potter series. I KNEW it would be different. It's adult for Pete's sake; it's BOUND to be different from a children's book. I have accepted it and moved on. I had always liked dark comedy and I thought I'd enjoy this, especially with the author being J.K. Rowling.

Well, I was wrong.

It had started out innocently enough. Barry Fairbrother, the most decent character in the entire book, drops dead at first chapter. The whole town has mixed feelings about his death: his family and friends were horrified and were in tears, his enemies delighted, and the neutral ones saddened that they will not be able to hear any of Barry's jokes anymore. Then it's all about what happened after Barry's death, how the town copes after a loss like his, and the lives he touched slowly unraveling one by one. You can say the whole story revolves around Barry.

Seems interesting, in a slice-of-life, tragedy way.

But it isn't.

To be fair, the characters were well fleshed out and given their own stories although I would have liked to know more of Barry's children, Vikram, and most of all, Paul. But the characters were given enough time to share their own thoughts, their feelings, and their beliefs. You can totally feel like you too have known all your life.

The setting was described properly too. I can picture the little town of Pagford so clearly in my mind's eye. I can imagine myself living there albeit not happily.

But it had a lot of problems those two points cannot make up for:
1. It was too slow. Slow is fine, but the plot has to pick up or the readers will die of boredom!
2. The idiocy of some of the characters was grating me. Indeed, they were well fleshed out; I almost know them as well as I know my classmates in college. But I know TOO MUCH about them if you get what I mean. There is a huge lack of common sense displayed.
3. The constant use of swear words and mention of sex was nauseating. Yeah, yeah, this is an adult book. It's normal to see these two in adult books. But J.K. Rowling should have taken into consideration that fans of her previous books would go through culture shock of having to read such things. She could simply hint the sex scenes you know; we're not stupid, we can understand that they were having sex. And we get that people can be foul-mouthed but having to make the characters say a bad mouth in every five pages is very tiring.

I had been done my best to be as unbiased as possible. I'm not grading this book with any of the hurt I feel from having my expectations promptly destroyed by my very eyes. If there is any slight hint of bias, I'm sorry. I had adored the concept of Hogwarts; it had sustained me whenever I was lonely as a kid.

That's my thoughts on The Casual Vacancy. I would love to sell the book but I might as well keep it as a reminder that one shouldn't expect so much from their favorite authors.

Not even one like J.K. Rowling.

The reason this is not one star or even zero star is because of the good writing on the characters and the setting. Nothing more.

My heart is broken. Allow me to contemplate on it and go to sleep (yeah I stayed up late just to finish this damn book, it's 4 in the morning here and I have an exam tomorrow).

Update: many hours later

I finally finished an exam (one out of, what, eight?) and I'm more relaxed. I decided to re-read my review and realized that, in my haste to unleash the initial feelings of disappointment, I have failed to mention that I honestly felt sad of how it ended and sincerely liked some of the characters.

Andrew was the standard teenager suffering from verbal abuse (and the occasional physical abuse) at home. His desire to impress Gaia was realistic, if not a tad unhealthy. Paul, his younger brother and my favorite character in the book, may be insignificant but his innocence in the dirty, depressing atmosphere The Casual Vacancy gives was terribly refreshing. Fats' strange obsession annoyed the heck out of me, but it did fascinate me in a way. (I still didn't like him though.) Sukhvinder's low self-esteem due to her demanding mother and the harsh words of her classmates was something almost all of us can relate to, although quite a bit of us don't start cutting ourselves to "ease our pain". Krystal, oh poor misguided, foolish Krystal, had only wanted to have a happy home where she and Robbie will be safe. She had been willing to get pregnant if that's what it takes to have one. She was indeed stupid but you can truly see she loved her brother Robbie and would do anything to protect him. And in the background, there was Barry. Kind, understanding, funny, warm, and mischevious Barry Fairbrother. Why did you have to die?

There.

I am more satisfied with my review now.
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Comments (showing 1-32 of 32) (32 new)

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message 1: by Ava Oceana (last edited Sep 27, 2012 02:53PM) (new) - added it

Ava Oceana I was reading some status updates and the first thought that popped into my head was: I feel like JK is trying too hard to convince people it's not a children's book, with all the cursing and mentions of sex.


Despair Speaking Official Oceana wrote: "I was reading some status updates and the first thought that popped into my head was: I feel like JK is trying too hard to convince people it's not a children's book, with all the cursing and menti..."

Yeah. It would have been a lot better without them. I really did find the ending kind of sad. And the plot is okay-ish although it might be boring to some people.


message 3: by Imi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Imi I haven't finished yet,but I think it shows how life works. And in real life we swear a lot,and there's sex. Yes,it's different,but I really like it and I feared HP fans like you. I love HP,reading them now too,but I knew those HP fans,who expect something loke HP but in an adult way will be disappointed and vote down this book. At least her new book will be read by people who can appreciate her changing-genres.


Dana Salman Wait, so, to clarify: they only bad-mouth every five pages?
That's not so bad, compared to other books I've read. Read a Stephen King novel and you'll get an f-word every few paragraphs.
And exactly how graphical are the sex scenes, I mean like - any better or worse than a sex scene in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, if you've read that?


message 5: by Amantha (new)

Amantha I have to agree with Dana: one swear word every five pages is tame compared to, say, Sherman Alexie or Junot Diaz or a number of other literary authors. The same goes with sex. It was drilled into my head during graduate school that nothing is too graphic for a literary novel. Granted, I don't know if Rowling is trying to be strictly "literary," but most authors would ask why shy away from the truth of the situation?

As for the idiocy of the characters, well that is just human nature. Especially when the human are emotionally invested and compromised, they tend to act irrationally.


message 6: by Connie (new)

Connie Downing Thanks Janette for your review, I haven't yet bought it and I probably won't now!


message 7: by Darko101 (new)

Darko101 Psssst!

Want to read about James Potter's (Harry's son) first year at Hogwarts.

Check out G. Norman Lippert's FREE fan-fiction ebook The Hall of Elders' Crossing.
I'm nearly finished it and it's filling that logging for more of what Hogwarts has to offer. It does not disappoint.

Check it out!

Great books are worth sharing :)


Cheers!


Despair Speaking Dana wrote: "Wait, so, to clarify: they only bad-mouth every five pages?
That's not so bad, compared to other books I've read. Read a Stephen King novel and you'll get an f-word every few paragraphs.
And exactl..."


I read a bit of that book. It's less I think. But it's just more often than in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I think it'll be fine for mature readers.


Despair Speaking Imi wrote: "I haven't finished yet,but I think it shows how life works. And in real life we swear a lot,and there's sex. Yes,it's different,but I really like it and I feared HP fans like you. I love HP,reading..."

Yes, I get your point. Perhaps even though I THINK I've prepared myself, a part of me still can't help but be biased. It's just that, like what Oceana said, it's as if J.K. Rowling is trying too hard to get away from HP's shadow. She should at least tone it down for those who ARE HP fans so they won't undergo culture shock or anything.

Amantha wrote: "I have to agree with Dana: one swear word every five pages is tame compared to, say, Sherman Alexie or Junot Diaz or a number of other literary authors. The same goes with sex. It was drilled int..."

Yes, yes, but what if some unwitting fan bought it without knowing it's adult for the sake that the author is J.K. Rowling? As I said to Imi, she should tone it down for their sakes. Besides, they don't have to be mentioned as frequently. Okay, so maybe she's aiming to be REALISTIC. Fine. But a lot of people read books in order to escape reality. And there were some pointless sex scenes.


message 10: by Ron (new) - rated it 1 star

Ron Bates Im a HP fan but thats not why I didnt like it. I wanted a good story from a good writer. this is not a good story.Its a nothing story.


message 11: by Miss Ryoko (new)

Miss Ryoko A classic case of why you should never read a book by an author you like just because it's by them. I read the synopsis and thought it sounded lame. I love JK Rowling but I won't be reading this book. But I'm glad you were honest and you weren't just like OMG I LOVE THIS!! simply because it's by JK Rowling.


Arlene Thanks for sharing...I felt much the same way!!


Despair Speaking ~*~Teresa Gyllenhaal~*~ wrote: "A classic case of why you should never read a book by an author you like just because it's by them. I read the synopsis and thought it sounded lame. I love JK Rowling but I won't be reading this bo..."

Yeah... you'll save yourself some money!

Arlene wrote: "Thanks for sharing...I felt much the same way!!"

Thanks!


Anachronist Yeah, you told it far better than me.


Despair Speaking Anachronist wrote: "Yeah, you told it far better than me."

Thanks! I'll try to check out your review of it too!


message 16: by Ashlet (new)

Ashlet that was a really long review Desp!


Despair Speaking Ashlet wrote: "that was a really long review Desp!"

Yeah, I know. It's one of my longer ones. I usually keep it short and simple. It only means the book left an impression on me, albeit a bad one!


message 18: by Ashlet (last edited Oct 01, 2012 07:51AM) (new)

Ashlet yeah it must have been a total waste of time and money.
and hey whats with the animals and the woman screaming pic on the about me column on ur profile?


Despair Speaking Ashlet wrote: "yeah it must have been a total waste of time and money.
and hey whats with the animals and the woman screaming pic on the about me column on ur profile?"


Oh that. It's a cycle of screaming like there's a endless cycle of suffering due to bad books. There's a little explanation in the bottom portion of the picture.


message 20: by Ashlet (new)

Ashlet yeah read it. and hey is the casual.. blahblah one of the bad books?


Despair Speaking Ashlet wrote: "yeah read it. and hey is the casual.. blahblah one of the bad books?"

Yes, sort of.


message 22: by Verity (new) - added it

Verity Challinor Sorry but it is a book for adults it was not intended for Harry potter followers. So it should be a culture shock shouldn't it? She said it wasn't going to be like hp so people shouldn't expect an adult book sugar coated in Harry potter magic, she wanted a change and to do adult books for a reason. Sorry just venting my opinion


Despair Speaking Verity wrote: "Sorry but it is a book for adults it was not intended for Harry potter followers. So it should be a culture shock shouldn't it? She said it wasn't going to be like hp so people shouldn't expect an ..."

No, it's okay. No, it's just that she should have at least used a pen name. One of my underclassmen whom I've known since high school because she was a rabid HP fan almost bought the book since it was from J.K. Rowling without knowing it's an adult book. She saw the name J.K. Rowling and immediately grabbed it. Good thing I happened to be debating whether I should buy another book at the time or she would have been terribly, terribly disappointed... She's the type to go on a field trip in another city and waste her whole time there to buy an HP armband. And then go home. 0.0


message 24: by Miss Ryoko (last edited Oct 09, 2012 07:34PM) (new)

Miss Ryoko Well, she has the right to use her actual name...but I honestly don't know how ANYONE could have missed this was a book for adults... that's all I ever saw was "JK Rowling's first book for adults" on anything and everything that was The Casual Vacancy(even the books I've seen have had stickers that said the exact same thing on it).

People should just learn to read the synopsis and see if it sounds like something that'll interest them instead of just going "I love this author" and buying it. But that's me opinion. I read the synopsis for every book that is by an author I adore before I decide if I'm going to read it or not. And I guess you never really know until you try. And you'll always end up reading books that are blah to you that are going to be by your favorite authors or otherwise.


Despair Speaking *Glamazon* wrote: "Well, she has the right to use her actual name...but I honestly don't know how ANYONE could have missed this was a book for adults... that's all I ever saw was "JK Rowling's first book for adults" ..."

I told you she just grabbed it and went straight to the cashier. Besides, there are adults books that aren't quite colorful so I can't blame anyone with high expectations. I've read adult books that had hardly if there was any bad words or sex scenes at all.


message 26: by Miss Ryoko (new)

Miss Ryoko Yes, that was the point I was trying to make is that people SHOULDN'T just grab it and go straight to the cash register. And if they do, well, if they're disappointed, it's all on them. I was also pointing out what Verity said was true because there was a lot of advertising about how this was an adult book and so people really have no excuse not to know. Hence, another reason why JK Rowling doesn't need to nor should she have to use a pen name. People had plenty of warning. And if they were like your friend and just decided not to look, then, once again, it's on them.

Well, authors are all different and they can choose what they want to put in their stories or not. JK Rowling is no different. If she wants swears and sex in her books, then she can do so. After all, sex and swearing are a part of life (and these two "topics" are not just limited to adult books, I have read PLENTY of books classified as teen/young adult that have had more than enough swearing and sex in them ). JK Rowling has the right to try something different and it might not be everyone's cup of tea (as we've seen) but that doesn't mean she isn't allowed to branch out.

'Sall I'm sayin' :-)


Despair Speaking *Glamazon* wrote: "Yes, that was the point I was trying to make is that people SHOULDN'T just grab it and go straight to the cash register. And if they do, well, if they're disappointed, it's all on them. I was also ..."

Well, to be fair, she is a rather silly girl and there was no advertisement. Seriously. I was, I think, the only one in my town who pre-ordered this book. And regretted it obviously but hey that's my fault. Not to mention it was placed just beside the teen's section. The print that said "J.K. Rowling's first adult book" was small enough to be ignored. Our bookstores here suck okay? Can you believe they placed 50 Shades of Grey on the teen's section and only realized it's actually adult a month later?


message 28: by Miss Ryoko (last edited Oct 10, 2012 06:55AM) (new)

Miss Ryoko I have a hard time believing any place that sells books put 50 Shades of Grey on any shelf in any section...but that is a different discussion ;-)


Despair Speaking *Glamazon* wrote: "I have a hard time believe any place that sells books put 50 Shades of Grey on any shelf in any section...but that is a different discussion ;-)"

I know. I almost fell over when I saw that. It was really stupid. I tried to complain but they didn't really listen... >.< Welcome to the Philippines.


message 30: by Mad (new)

Mad Is it really like that? Good thing I managed to check it out in GoodReads. I wish most of the reviews were actually reviews though!


message 31: by Ashlet (new)

Ashlet yeah a lot of them just show pics about how the readers felt after reading the book. there is a lot of unnecessary stuff.


Antonio  Angelo Its not just an adult book, its a depressed adult book. The sex only bothered me because it was poorly executed. The swearing isnt anything i would notice. But i felt your review was pretty solid.


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